Your Interview Sophie Parry
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
I'm Sophie Parry from UK, and I currently work at Zumtobel Group. I got into lighting design quite by accident really. I had learned about basic lighting design and applied what I had learned to some project designs very early in my career, but then I moved into other more specialised areas of electrical & electronic building services. In 2010, I went to work for a Honeywell brand that manufactured and sold lighting controls. About that time, my then line manager told me that Honeywell had acquired a LED lighting manufacturer, a new lighting technology, but no-one in the UK really understood much about it, and could I investigate and come up with some marketing ideas for the company here in the UK ? Honeywell had some good early project successes with LED lighting and I also introduced the concept of adding lighting controls to LED lighting installations. Honeywell did not invest further in LED lighting technology, but by now I was totally into lighting design and applications and knew there was so much more to pursue, so I joined Zumtobel Group here in the UK in 2014 and initially started working on specified account sales lighting projects within the London design community. These days I work for ZG in technical applications support.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
My work is quite eclectic really. I have worked on a diverse portfolio of projects over the last decade. My favourite projects are museums & galleries and external lighting schemes. Most of the day to day work I have been involved with since 2014 have been office and workspace projects and this is an application that I have found very interesting as the concepts of wellness are introduced to electric lighting. One of the areas I seem to have developed a specialism for, is emergency lighting. I am not sure how this happened, but maybe it’s linked to the period of my career where I spent quite a lot of time working on fire detection/suppression and life safety systems & technologies ? Theatres are my favourite emergency lighting projects- so much to consider in the balance of performance art vs life safety.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Oh, there are so many interesting projects I have been involved with, but for me, the common denominator on these interesting projects has been understanding what needs to be achieved, communicating my ideas and seeing them turn to reality.
Not all of my projects have been buildings- I also got involved with the Society of Light & Lighting here in the UK and before I cold catch my breath, I was invited to join the Technical & Publications committee. The projects here are about authorship and communicating lighting best practice through world-class publications aimed at lighting designers. I joined this committee in 2015 and how time flies- I counted up that over the last 6 years I have project managed, sole-authored and contributed to 6 CIBSE/SLL publications. For me, the first project I was given- Lighting Guide 14- Control of Electric Light has to be my favourite, as it got noticed in China and subsequently, I was invited by CIBSE Hong Kong to visit lighting conferences in Hong Kong and Shanghai as a guest speaker.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge I have faced is being taken seriously by men of a certain age….. they are so set in their ways ! and they see the construction industry as their domain.
I have lost count of the amount of times when at first meetings with people who have not met me before, think it’s OK to assume I will make the teas and coffee or take the minutes, because I could not possibly be an engineer.
However, once I start communicating my ideas and solutions, the mood changes. Not always, but most of the time.
The newer male entrants to the industry don’t come pre-programmed this way and it’s all about working together on equal terms. This in itself shows me there has been positive progress towards equality over the last few years.
How does light inspire you?
This is an interesting question ! Light inspires me in many ways. We all need light in our lives and for more than just the practical purpose of being able to see objects, colour and texture. Daylight is the ultimate source of light both for vision, but also as a giver and re-calibrator of wellness. One of my interests is photography and I have learned that natural light is indeed very complex and can illuminate the same scene in so many interesting and varied ways.
LED Electric lighting both in terms of the technology and application is now starting to deliver more than practical illumination as the possibilities of also providing the melanopic content found in natural light become apparent and the ability to light the same scene in different ways through advances in lighting controls technology become commercially viable. This aspect of electric lighting science is really just at the beginning…. But for me, these are exciting times as this technology is developed and applied to projects.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Anything is possible- the science of lighting is always developing and there is always something new to learn and apply. Embrace positive change and build your knowledge as knowledge and creativity are the currency of any passionate designer.
Designer, Educator, Engineer, Publisher
“There are so many interesting projects I have been involved with, but for me, the common denominator on these interesting projects has been understanding what needs to be achieved, communicating my ideas and seeing them turn to reality.”